The Lowdown on black truffles
There are two seasons that matter in Italy: November to March when winter black truffles are in season and May through to September when they’re once again in season during summer. Whilst truffles are considered a type of mushroom, they grow underground around the roots of broadleaf trees such as mighty oaks or hazelnut trees. Black truffles are slightly pungent and when cooked taste nutty, woody and earthy which places them in the umami category. Anyone who tastes them comes to love their flavour.
Growing black truffles is a long and gruelling process. It can take as long as three to four years. Within this period truffles may often yield a disappointing harvest due to weather or wild animals. The process starts with hazelnut or oak seedlings being injected with fungi cells and planted apart from each other with enough space for the roots to spread. As the trees grow, so do the truffles by attaching them to the roots which in turn feed the truffles glucose. The truffles help the roots absorb phosphorus from the soil.
When it’s finally time to harvest the truffles it is done by the most unusual method. Farmers will use especially-trained dogs or pigs who sniff out the pungent aroma in the ground. Truffle-hunting is a fun pastime in Italy and extremely popular with tourists.
Black truffles look like clumps of dirt; granular and rough on the outside and the inside resembles that of a steak. However, 500 grams of Grade A winter black truffles can cost as much as £430 - making them one of the most sought-after gourmet ingredients in the world. The unique taste and aroma of black truffles can deepen the taste of any dish they are added to. However, a thing that makes the value of this delicacy climb even higher is that black truffles only have a shelf life of around two weeks.
One of the most versatile ways to use this rare ingredient is to infuse olive oil with it. This can be done either by seeping extra virgin olive oil in truffles or adding black truffle shavings to olive oil. The aroma of the earthy truffle in the oil gives it a flavour that some describe as an aphrodisiac.
Whilst truffle oil cannot be used for cooking, it’s great for flavouring or seasoning the most basic dish. You should definitely try our black truffle tagliolini